DAVOS — Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi reached out Friday to the world's business elite to invest in her isolated, impoverished country — but carefully.
"We yearn to be a part of the global community," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said in an audio message to the World Economic Forum, where leading world executives and government officials are gathered in this Swiss Alpine resort.
"We have already missed so many opportunities because of political conflicts in our country over the last 50 years," she said.
Defense spending in military-run Burma, one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, overwhelms spending on education and health, to the detriment of its 55 million people, she said
She described following the global economic crisis by listening to radio broadcasts from house arrest, where she was held for seven years until her release in November. She is now struggling to get her National League for Democracy party legalized and back in politics.
Without national reconciliation and political stability, she warned, "social and economic development will remain mere pipe dreams."
She urged investment in technology and infrastructure, and micro-lending programs, but said investors "should pay close attention to the costs and collateral damage of our development, whether environmental or social."
She appealed to "those who have invested or who are thinking of investing in Burma to put a premium on respect for the law, on environmental and social factors, on the rights of workers, on job creation and on the promotion of technological skills."
Some activists worry that tourism dollars and investment in Burma help fund a government that still holds some 2,000 political prisoners. But Suu Kyi's release appears to be easing those concerns.
Suu Kyi's party won the country's last election, in 1990, but the army would not let it take power and refused to convene parliament. The first parliamentary session since 1988 is to convene Monday, dominated by a military-sponsored party.
Suu Kyi spoke to the Davos participants hours after Burma's highest court declined Friday to hear a case she filed seeking to overturn the government's dissolution of her party.